Cost of living: No 10 defends above-inflation rise for pensioners but not public sector workers – live | Politics | #socialmedia


No 10 defends giving above-inflation rise to pensioners but not to public sector workers

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the prime minister’s spokesperson was asked to explain why the government was opposing above-inflation pay rises for public sector workers, on the grounds they would be inflationary, while approving an above-inflation increase in the value of the state pension for next year. (See 12.35pm.) The spokesperson said the government thought the pension increase would no be inflationary.

Referring to public sector pay, he said:

The view is that if we were to chase inflation in this way, by matching all demands on public sector pay, some of which would involve matching inflation and adding additional on top of that, that would be inflationary, and that’s what in the long term would actually make people feel like they had less money going forward.

Asked why raising the value of the state pension for 2023-24 by more than the likely rate of inflation for that year was not inflationary, he replied:

The chancellor needs to consider it all in the round and the view is that we can meet that commitment without stoking those inflationary pressures. But we did take difficult decisions with regards to the triple lock, a temporary one-year suspension.

Ben Riley-Smith from the Telegraph says the Downing Street arguments about pay and inflation now make little sense.

No 10’s contorted pay position:

1/ Public sector workers will not get an inflation level pay rise as it would be inflationary… but state pensions will rise by inflation

2/ Britain must become “high wage”, but neither public or private sector should give real term pay rises

— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) June 21, 2022

3/ New tax cuts now would be inflationary so would be wrong… but £37 billion in cost of living spending is necessary despite impact on inflation… and the tax cut coming in next month is a good thing…

— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) June 21, 2022

Johnson warns against risk of Ukrainian war ‘fatigue’

And here are some of the other lines from the Downing Street lobby briefing.

  • Boris Johnson told cabinet that he was concerned about Ukrainian war “fatigue”. Summing up what happened at cabinet, the PM’s spokesperson said:

The prime minister said there was a risk of growing fatigue around the conflict. He said it was vital to remember that the Ukrainians are fighting for freedom and that the UK would be steadfast in supporting them. He said we must not allow anyone to believe that making concessions to Putin would lead to anything but disaster. He said it would embolden not just Russia but their allies and have an impact on UK security and on our economy.

Johnson told colleagues that at the Commonwealth, G7 and Nato meetings he was attending over the next week, he would be pressing other world leaders not to give up on support for Ukraine.

  • Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, both stressed at cabinet the need to maintain fiscal discipline. The spokesperson said:

The prime minister said the public would expect the government to stick within their means at a time of global cost of living pressures. The chancellor emphasised that the government had responsibility to not take any action that would feed into inflationary pressures or reduce the government’s ability to lower taxes in the future.

  • The spokesperson did not deny a report saying Johnson considered putting his wife into one of two jobs in 2020. The Daily Mirror reports:

Sources say the PM wanted to get [Carrie Johnson] a job as a green ambassador in the run-up to the global climate summit in Glasgow. They claim his second idea was to line her up as communications director for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Earthshot Prize.

The insiders suggest he wanted cabinet secretary Simon Case, who had previously been Prince William’s private secretary, to “take soundings”.

But the PM’s closest advisers were said to have vetoed both suggestions, warning either position could undermine his wife’s status as a private citizen.

Asked about the report, the spokesperson said Johnson did not “recommend” his wife for these jobs. But he did not deny that the option might have been discussed. He said:

The prime minister has never recommended Mrs Johnson for a government role, or one as part of the Earthshot Prize. Beyond that I wouldn’t get into any conversations the prime minister may or may not have had in private.

  • The spokesperson confirmed that the government is considering changing the rules about how non-executive directors can be paid. But he also denied a suggestion in the report in the i that the government was considering, as part of this, lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses. The spokesperson said what was being considered was removing “any unnecessary restrictions on paying non-executive directors shares”.

No 10 defends giving above-inflation rise to pensioners but not to public sector workers

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the prime minister’s spokesperson was asked to explain why the government was opposing above-inflation pay rises for public sector workers, on the grounds they would be inflationary, while approving an above-inflation increase in the value of the state pension for next year. (See 12.35pm.) The spokesperson said the government thought the pension increase would no be inflationary.

Referring to public sector pay, he said:

The view is that if we were to chase inflation in this way, by matching all demands on public sector pay, some of which would involve matching inflation and adding additional on top of that, that would be inflationary, and that’s what in the long term would actually make people feel like they had less money going forward.

Asked why raising the value of the state pension for 2023-24 by more than the likely rate of inflation for that year was not inflationary, he replied:

The chancellor needs to consider it all in the round and the view is that we can meet that commitment without stoking those inflationary pressures. But we did take difficult decisions with regards to the triple lock, a temporary one-year suspension.

Ben Riley-Smith from the Telegraph says the Downing Street arguments about pay and inflation now make little sense.

No 10’s contorted pay position:

1/ Public sector workers will not get an inflation level pay rise as it would be inflationary… but state pensions will rise by inflation

2/ Britain must become “high wage”, but neither public or private sector should give real term pay rises

— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) June 21, 2022

3/ New tax cuts now would be inflationary so would be wrong… but £37 billion in cost of living spending is necessary despite impact on inflation… and the tax cut coming in next month is a good thing…

— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) June 21, 2022

Treasury says triple lock means state pension rise next year likely to be ‘significantly higher’ than inflation

In response to a parliamentary written answer, Simon Clarke, chief secretary to the Treasury, has confirmed that the government will apply the pensions “triple lock” again this year. The mechanism, which was suspended last year because the impact of Covid meant it would have had a distorted impact, says pensions will go up in line with earnings, or inflation, or 2.5% – whichever is higher.

Clarke said:

Next year, the triple lock will apply for the state pension. Subject to the secretary of state’s review, pensions and other benefits will be uprated by this September’s CPI which, on current forecasts, is likely to be significantly higher than the forecast inflation rate for 2023/24.

This is from Josephine Cumbo, the FT’s global pensions correspondent.

NEW: UK Govt confirms the “triple lock” will apply for next year’s state pension, meaning millions of pensioners are in line for 10%+ rises to their weekly income.

Treasury minister confirms in response to written question.https://t.co/fZT03E3Lxj

— Josephine Cumbo (@JosephineCumbo) June 21, 2022

Momentum, the Labour group set up to support Jeremy Corbyn and his agenda when Corbyn was party leader, says Keir Starmer’s attempt to ban fronbenchers from RMT picket lines (see 9.31am and 11.40am) shows the party has “lost its way”. A spokeperson for Momentum said:

The Labour party was founded to represent the interests of workers. But under Keir Starmer’s leadership, the party has lost its way. Instead, it is Socialist Campaign Group MPs out there on the picket lines with rail workers who refuse to accept cuts to their pay and conditions, in a time of spiralling inflation. That’s the basic solidarity that the Labour name demands.

It has also posted this on social media.

RMT leader Mick Lynch says proposal to let agency staff fill in for striking rail workers unworkable ‘nonsense’

In interviews this morning Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, reaffirmed the government’s intention to change the legislation to allow firms to use agency workers to fill in for staff who are on strike. (See 11.14am.) As we report in our overnight lead on the strike, Whitehall sources say No 10 and the Cabinet Office are pushing for this, rather than the business department.

Yesterday, the TUC and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) put out a joint statement opposing the idea “in the strongest possible terms”. They said it was unworkable.

This morning Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, also dismissed the idea, which he described as “nonsense”. He said:

I don’t know how bringing in untrained, non-safety critical, inexperienced workers into a dangerous environment like the railway – with high speed trains, there are high voltage distribution systems, there are rules and regulations that have the power of statute – how that will help anyone, whether they are a passenger or a worker or manager or whatever?

I don’t see how the use, the deployment of students or people who have got no work experience that are working for an agency will help anyone to resolve this situation, so as usual [Grant Shapps is] just spouting nonsense given to him from some policy unit which doesn’t help to resolve the situations which are in front of us.

Mick Lynch on a picket line outside King’s Cross station in London this morning. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

And here is the Tory response to Labour MPs joining RMT picket lines. This is from Oliver Dowden, the Conservative party co-chair.

And this is from the Conservative party’s Twitter account.

Labour has said that the chief whip, Alan Campbell, will wait until the strike action is over before deciding what disciplinary action to take against frontbenchers and PPSs who have joined RMT picket lines despite being told not to. (See 11.40am.) A party spokesperson said:

Unlike the government, our focus is firmly on the public. The Tories are in charge, and they failed to fix it. The responsibility for this week’s chaos lies firmly with them. Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps must U-turn on their refusal to even meet with Network Rail and the RMT to urgently find a solution.

Labour whip joins parliamentary aides in defying order from Starmer not to join RMT picket lines

Some leftwing Labour MPs have joined RMT picket lines today – despite Keir Starmer’s office saying frontbenchers should stay away (see 9.31am) – and posting pictures on Twitter.

Earlier I posted a tweet from Kate Osborne, who joined an RMT picket lined despite being a parliamentary private secretary (PPS), which means she is covered by the order for frontbenchers not to join picket lines. (See 9.42am.) This is from Navendu Mishra, who as a whip is also covered by the instruction from Keir Starmer’s office.

This treacherous government has underfunded & mismanaged our public transport network for more than a decade.

As a proud trade unionist, I stand with all workers on our railway network who are taking industrial action to fight for their jobs & keep passengers safe #RailStrikes pic.twitter.com/5Mpo8jtReR

— Navendu Mishra (@NavPMishra) June 21, 2022

This is from Ian Lavery, a former Labour party chair.

This is from Richard Burgon, secretary of the Campaign group in parliament, which represents leftwing Labour MPs.

Great to pop to the picket line at Victoria Station this morning with other Labour MPs from the Socialist Campaign Group to show solidarity with @rmtunion workers forced by this Tory Government into strike action to defend their pay, jobs and conditions. pic.twitter.com/u6mgPV8LyN

— Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) June 21, 2022

This is from Zarah Sultana.

This is from Beth Winter.

This is from Paula Barker, who as a PPS is under orders not to be on a picket line.

Proud to support the workers on the picket line at London Victoria this morning, alongside colleagues.

These workers keep our country moving safely 365 days a year. The least they deserve is to be paid properly and feel secure in their jobs. #RailStrikes @RMTunion pic.twitter.com/9qk1H8q2Xz

— Paula Barker MP (@PaulaBarkerMP) June 21, 2022

This is from Kim Johnson, another PPS.

Tahir Ali says at some point he will be on a picket line.

I’ll be out on the pickets today to support @RMTunion members.

Solidarity to all those who are out taking action to protect jobs, ensure safety, and win better pay and conditions. pic.twitter.com/aPxWhv14kH

— Tahir Ali MP (@TahirAliMP) June 21, 2022

And Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader who is currently suspended from the parliamentary party, has posted this on Twitter expressing his support for the RMT.

Solidarity with @RMTunion railway workers striking up and down the country this week.

We cannot let the profits of the rich cannot continue to grow at the expense of workers’ jobs, wages, conditions, pensions and safety. pic.twitter.com/rmi8DuK6Ch

— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 21, 2022

Shapps claims, if he got involved in talks with RMT, that would not make settlement of dispute more likely

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, gave a round of interviews this morning about the rail strike. Here are the key points.

  • Shapps implied that, if he were personally to get involved in the talks with unions, that would not make a settlement of the dispute any more likely. He told Sky News:

If I thought there was even a one in a million chance that my being in the room would help sorted it out, then I’d be there. Mick Lynch is the head of the union, the RMT, and he said last month he would never negotiate with a Tory government.

Shapps also claimed that if he were in the room, that would undermine the talks. Asked why, he explained:

Because these are highly technical negotiations, they involve 20-plus areas of reform which are required which are extremely technical.

Shapps said the call of him to get involved personally was a “red herring” publicised by Labour. He said when Labour was last in government, ministers did not get involved in industrial disputes with firefighters and postal workers; they left it to management. Not gettting involved was “standard practice” for ministers, he claimed. And he said in the 1970s, when unions leaders were invited into No 10 for “beer and sandwiches”, labour relations did not work out well.

  • He said the government’s emergency committee, Cobra, would be meeting this week to consider the impact of the rail strike.
  • He said he expected fewer than 20% of trains to be running today.
  • He claimed that Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, was “determined to turn himself back into one of those 1970s union barons”. (The frequent reference by ministers to union barons – see 10.14am – is evidence that the government is run by a journalist. No one else talks about union barons. It is classic journalese. Unlike real barons, who sit in the House of Lords, the union ones hold office because they are elected by their members.)
  • Shapps confirmed that the government would change the law to allow firms to bring in agency workers to minimise the disruption caused by strike action
  • Shapps said the government was still committed to legislating to force train companies to operate a minimum level of service during strike action.
Grant Shapps at cabinet this morning.
Grant Shapps at cabinet this morning. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Network Rail boss denies ministers urged it to cap pay offer

On the Today programme this morning Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, argued that, if modernisation could be used to make the railways more effective, he would be able to offer rail workers a much more generous pay rise. But unions were opposed to modernisation, he claimed. Giving examples, he said:

We have people who won’t share the same van, so we send two vans to site … They block for nearly a year the introduction of an app so that we can communicate with our own staff, [they’re] blocking the introduction of new safety planning tools, restricting the use of new technology, not turning on a forward-facing camera in a car or a van that they’re driving, [we’re] having to roster people in whole teams regardless of the size of the task, not being able to move people from work that’s not necessary to work that is necessary.

When this was put to Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, he said all of those items were being discussed. He said the union was willing to negotiate change. But it wanted a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, he said.

As my colleague Emily Dugan reports, in his Today interview Haines also denied being told by ministers to cap the pay increase being offered to rail workers at 3%. He said:

The government recognises there’s so much productivity available in the industry that for the right deal we could go above that. So 3% would be a constraint if we weren’t able to achieve any productivity.

Johnson signals he will not give in to RMT rail demands, telling cabinet they must ‘stay the course’ and push through reforms

Boris Johnson opened cabinet this morning with a message saying reform in the rail industry was essential. In the past we normally only found out what the PM said at cabinet when No 10 (or other ministers) briefed it out, but for the last few weeks Johnson has been using cabinet as a photo opportunity and he has invited in a camera crew to record his opening spiel. Here are some of the points he made this morning, from what was broadcast by Sky News.

  • Johnson claimed the government was making bigger investments in railways than any previous government. The integrated rail plan alone was worth £96bn, he said. It was “truly transformational”, he claimed.
  • But he claimed that investment would not be possible without reform. He said:

But if we’re going to do these colossal investments, as we are and as we must, we’ve got to have reform … It cannot be right that some ticket offices, I think, are selling roughly one ticket per hour. We need to get those staff out from behind the plate glass onto the platforms interacting with passengers, with customers, in the way that they want to do.

And we need the union barons to sit down with Network Rail and the train companies and get on with it.

  • He said the country had to get ready to “stay the course” because reforms were essential. They would cut costs, he argued.

We need, I’m afraid, everybody – and I say this to the country as a whole – we need to get ready to stay the course. Because these reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways, are in the interest of the travelling public. They will help to cut costs of fare payers up and down the country.

‘Stay the course’ sounded like a Thatcherite declaration that he was not going to give in to the union demands at any point. But whether the government retains the appetite for a no-compromise approach if disruption continues over the summer may be another matter.

  • Johnson said that if the modernisation programme did not go ahead, ticket prices would get more expensive. He told cabinet this morning:

If we don’t do this, these great companies, this great industry, will face further financial pressure, it will go bust and the result will be they have to hike up the cost of tickets still further so that people don’t use the railways at all or use them much less than they used to.

And that will, I think, be a disaster for this country and for our economy.

And he was a bit more blunt on this point in a quote released by No 10 overnight in the press notice previewing what he would be saying. This quoted Johnson as saying:

I want to be clear – we are not loading higher fares on passengers to carry on paying for working practices that date back in some cases to the 19th century.

This line is interesting because until now the government has attacked the strike largely on the grounds that it will cause intense inconvenience to commuters. But this argument links the strike, and rail reform, to the government’s longterm plan to help people with the cost of living.

Boris Johnson addressing cabinet
Boris Johnson addressing cabinet Photograph: Sky News

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, arriving at Downing Street for cabinet today.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, arriving at Downing Street for cabinet today. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

The Labour MP Kate Osborne, who is parliamentary private secretary to the shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle, has joined an RMT picket line, in defiance of the orders from Keir Starmer’s office. (See 9.31am.) Asked if she would face disciplinary action, Pat McFadden, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, told Sky News: “That’s a matter for the whips and for Keir Starmer.”

‘You don’t lead by hiding’, Unite leader tells Starmer as Labour orders frontbenchers not to join rail picket lines

Good morning. The rail strikes are set to be the dominant political story of the week and today – which sees the first day of a national strike by RMT members, as well as a strike on the London tube – may well see the worst disruption of the week.

My colleague Geneva Abdul is writing our stand-alone train strikes live blog, where there will be coverage of all aspects of the strikes – political interventions, but also what is happening on the transport network, and the experiences of commuters.

Inevitably there will be some overlap with this blog, where I will be covering the politics of the dispute, as well as other, non-rail Westminister stories.

For most people the main question generated by the strike is, ‘Will I be able to get to work?’ But for the political obsessive class what’s most interesting is , ‘Who’s going to get the blame?’ Boris Johnson is desperate to persuade the public that Keir Starmer is responsible. Seeking to revive folk memories of the 1978 winter of discontent, the PM has made a case based on three premises: 1) Labour won’t condemn the strike; 2) the party is linked to the trade union movement (although not the RMT, which disaffiliated from Labour almost 20 years ago); and 3) some Labour MPs have said they support the RMT walk-out.

But it is still quite hard to land this argument, as the Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson (a loyal Johnson supporter) demonstrated this morning when he posted this on Twitter.

Jenkinson was only elected in 2019, but even he must remember that Conservative or Conservative-led governments have been in power since 2010.

In truth, people normally blame the government when services go wrong and even Johnson must realise that the ‘blame Starmer’ strategy will only get him so far. Public perceptions of trade unions are more positive than they used to be and you need to be close to pension age these days to have a proper memory of the winter of discontent.

But Labour is still nervous, and last night Sienna Rodgers at Politics Home revealed that frontbenchers have been told not to join picket lines. Starmer’s office has sent a message to shadow cabinet members saying:

We have robust lines. We do not want to see these strikes to go ahead with the resulting disruption to the public. The government have failed to engage in any negotiations.

However, we also must show leadership and to that end, please be reminded that frontbenchers including [parliamentary private secretaries] should not be on picket lines.

Please speak to all the members of your team to remind them of this and confirm with me that you have done so.

Unsurprisingly, this has infuriated people on the left. Last night Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union, which in the past has been Labour’s biggest donor, posted these on Twitter.

The Labour Party was founded by the trade unions and we expect Labour MPs to defend workers, by words and by actions. To instruct Labour MPs not to be on picket lines with workers speaks volumes. 1/2

— Sharon Graham (@UniteSharon) June 20, 2022

You don’t lead by hiding. No one respects that. It’s time to decide whose side you are on. Workers or bad bosses? 2/2

— Sharon Graham (@UniteSharon) June 20, 2022

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

11.30am: Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

After 4pm: MPs begin a debate on a Labour motion that would require the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee to appoint its own adviser on the ministerial code if Boris Johnson has not replaced Lord Geidt as his own independent adviser on ministers’ interests after two months.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com





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